708 to 712
Dawn was out of town last week so I took the opportunity to fly at every chance.
I got in several flights, all 45 minutes or longer, all at the North Port Charlotte LZ. The site is not my favorite, it's narrow and bordered on all sides by tall trees. So far, so good but I can see problems if the wind changes after I'm up. The rotor from the trees would force me to land out at the least. I have driven the area and located some alternate landing zones but all of them are marginal and a good hike from the launch. More disturbing is that some of the LZs that I'd spotted from the air were absolutely not acceptable. Hopefully, I would have seen the hazards and aborted the landing ... but... if it had been a motor out or some other emergency I would have been in a world of hurt.
Note to self.... Just because it looks good from 500 feet doesn't mean it's landable terrain.
One morning, I launched in what I thought was nil winds, only to find, there was a strong tail wind at the treetops. There wasn't any rotor because the wind was inline with the road but I was moving fast and the climb rate didn't leave much margin to clear the trees. Fortunately the landing was a non event, I lined up with the road and landed into the wind, between the trees. There was some turbulence at 20 feet but it didn't do anything but bounce me around a bit.
Two days ago I was finally able to speak with Frank Moss, the owner of Shell Creek Airport. He started the conversation with , "I don't want anybody running commercial operations at Shell Creek". Apparently Kurt Fister had done some training there and left them with a bad taste for Powered Paragliders, I assured him that I was a respectful pilot and had shared the field with the largest skydiving company in Colorado. Apparently he was willing to reconsider because he is letting me fly his field.
Shell Creek is a great LZ. There is a long grass strip with 20 acres of grass for the skydivers. The whole area is wide open and there aren't any wires to catch.
The grass is trimmed like a golf course and the LZ is trimmed like a putting green. There are a handful of abandoned DC-10s and an old cargo copter rusting along the edges of the property. Some day I'll be there when somebody is around and I'm going to ask to poke around the wrecks.
The last two weeks have been the beginning of a new chapter. Yes, we started this move back in February and there are still some major challenges ahead but for the first time in almost 5 years I go to bed looking forward to the morning. There is finally a light at the end of the tunnel.